Whale shark. Photo: Matthew T. Rader/Unsplash.

NOSY BE (MADAGASCAR)- Could the island of Nosy Be, off western Madagascar be a new global hotspot for endangered whale sharks? Recent satellite tag-data from research suggests this as possibility.

That the whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) live in these waters is no secret. They are routinely sighted off the northwest coast of Madagascar, particularly off the island of Nosy Be. Dedicated whale shark tourism has been developing in the area since 2011.


Researchers of the Madagascar Whale Shark Project, Marine Megafauna Foundation, Mada Megafauna, and the Florida International University photo-identified 85 individual whale sharks ranging from 3.5 to 8 m in total length (all juveniles). None had been previously identified from surrounding countries. The research showed that the main activity hotspot for tagged sharks was around the Nosy Be area. Three individuals were resighted back at Nosy Be a few months later after having lost their tags.
Whale Shark. Photo: Evan Buchholz/Unsplash.
Whale Shark. Photo: Evan Buchholz/Unsplash.

A secondary hotspot was identified off Pointe d’Analalava, 180 km southeast of Nosy Be. Five sharks swam off the shelf into the northeastern Mozambique Channel, between Madagascar and Mayotte, and one of these continued to near the Comoros islands. Two sharks swam to southern Madagascar, with minimum track distances of 3414 and 4275 km.


The species is presently unprotected in Madagascar, although a small proportion of the high-use area we identified in this study is encompassed within 2 marine protected areas adjacent to Nosy Be. Whale sharks are globally endangered and valuable to the local economy, so there is a clear rationale to identify and mitigate impacts on the sharks within the 2 hotspots identified here.

More info on the research:
Diamant S, Rohner CA, Kiszka JJ, Guillemain d’Echon A, Guillemain d’Echon T, Sourisseau E, Pierce SJ (2018) Movements and habitat use of satellite-tagged whale sharks off western Madagascar. Endang Species Res 36:49-58. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00889